LYNN, Mass. — The mother of a child with autism says her little boy was humiliated by airport security, and she took her message to Facebook where it’s getting a lot of attention from across the country.
Jaselyn Roman said employees of Southwest Airlines asked her to “prove” that her son has autism and instead of accommodating her child, she says airline staff wouldn’t let them on the flight.
"They ask me flat out ‘does he have documentation?’” she told FOX25. "I said ‘listen if he doesn't board now it’s going to be a tantrum and emotional breakdown.’”
Roman said her 4-year-old son Adonis seems to like the idea of flying. He’s been on a half dozen flights and never had any issues until they were returning from St. Louis.
While trying to explain the situation to the gate agent, Roman said things escalated and the staff ignored her request for priority boarding then judged Adonis for his anxious behavior and asked if he had a fever.
"’I said he's not contagious, he's spitting because of his autism - oral fixation oral behavior,” she said.
The gate agent called EMS, and that’s when Roman said they were told her son couldn’t fly because he was a risk.
Eventually an employee apologized and the company put Roman’s family up in a hotel for the night. She shared an email sent from the company after the incident.
"If we have reason to believe that a Customer will require medical intervention during a flight, we will deny boarding to that individual if we do not receive a medical certificate and/or evaluation from trained medical professionals clearing the Customer for travel,” the letter said.
But that isn’t satisfying for Roman, who says the real solution would be working with staff to help them understand disabilities.
"I want the airline to say you know what we're going to educate our staff on what autism is,” she said. "It's not a contagious disease. It’s something you cannot yell, scream, blow sirens, you cannot chastise us, you cannot shut us down we do have a voice.”
Southwest initially gave Roman’s family one-way vouchers, and after phone calls from FOX25 reimbursed them for one-way tickets.
The company emailed FOX25 a statement with similar wording to what Roman received and said it hopes her family will give it another chance.
Cox Media Group